Two Seattle firefighters and a woman were each charged today with fourth-degree assault and malicious harassment for an alleged attack on a homeless man who was sleeping on a memorial to fallen firefighters in Seattle’s Occidental Park in March, according to the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
In April, King County prosecutors declined to file felony charges against firefighters Scott Bullene and Robert Howell, as well as Mia Jarvinen, Bullene’s girlfriend, after determining there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove felony assault. At the time, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said the lack of cooperation from the alleged victim also played into the decision not to file felony charges.
The three are expected to make their first appearances in Seattle Municipal Court in about three weeks, Kimberly Mills, a spokeswoman for City Attorney Pete Holmes, said in a news release. Based on police reports and witness interviews, city attorneys “have reason to believe the harassment was because of the victim’s status of being homeless,” the release says in explaining the malicious harassment charges.
If convicted, Bullene, Howell and Jarvinen each face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 364 days in jail, according to the news release.
Bullene and Howell, who had both been on disability leave, have been on paid administrative leave while the incident was investigated, Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said today, adding “the discipline process is ongoing.”
According to police, Howell, Bullene and Jarvinen were walking through Pioneer Square about 5 p.m. on March 15 after attending a Seattle Sounders game at Century Link Field when they saw the homeless man sleeping on the Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
Witnesses told police that Jarvinen kicked at the man, yelled at him and threw his food on him after she saw him.
Howell then started yelling about how the victim was disrespecting his “brothers” and began punching and “stomping” the man, police wrote in the report.
The fracas drew other transients, according to police and witnesses.
In an apparent attempt to ward off his attackers, the homeless man got up and stabbed Bullene.
Bullene, 45, was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center for treatment of a non-life-threatening wound, fire department Lt. Sue Stangl said at the time.
Howell, 46, initially told police that he was walking through the park with two friends when he was “suddenly attacked by some unknown person for some unknown reason.”
Howell described his attacker as a “black male in his 30s wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and bluejeans,” according to the police report.
A short time later, however, police heard a very different story from several witnesses who described Howell, Bullene and Jarvinen as the instigators, according to police. Howell and Jarvinen were arrested. Jarvinen was booked for investigation of fourth-degree assault and later released.
Bullene, who was hired by the department in 1999, was initially placed on disability after the stabbing, according to the Fire Department.
Howell, a Seattle firefighter since 1997, had been on disability since Jan. 9. He told police that he had a shoulder injury, according to police reports.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Jarvinen, 37, is a senior finance manager at Amazon.com.
After the alleged beating, Seattle Fire Chief Gregory Dean apologized to the public for the two firefighters’ alleged involvement in the incident. Dean said at the time that firefighters are supposed to protect the public, “not put them in harm’s way.”